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Model Home Project

A Proud Hawai'i CC Tradition

The Model Home Project is the only program of its kind in Hawai'i and possibly the nation. For more than 50 years, students in construction trades programs have gained exceptional experience by building a real home every year for a Native Hawaiian family. Students design, build, wire, landscape and bless the homes in partnership with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. The Model Home Project was established in 1965, and since then more than 4,000 students have gained hands-on learning experience as they prepare for rewarding careers. 


Discover the Model Home Project

Celebrating Model Home #50

Model Home Alumni Reflections

Programs Involved in the Model Home Project 

Click the tabs below to see how the different academic programs contribute to the Model Home Project. 

The Carpentry students who construct the Model Homes go through rigorous classroom and practical training before hitting a single nail on the actual house. Along with carpentry principles and procedures, students also learn safety, good work ethics, leadership and team work. The Model Home takes two semesters to build. The Fall semester involves the foundation and rough framing. The finishing portion of the house happens in the following Spring semester. The construction sequence and procedures are as follows:

Fall Semester (foundation and rough framing)

  • Layout, batter boards and excavation.
  • Footing and pier box forms.
  • Concrete calculations, concrete placement and setting of hollow tile. (with structural steel reinforcement).
  • Foundation inspection.
  • Floor framing (post and pier) and subfloor placement.
  • Wall framing (stud wall construction).
  • Roof framing (installation of trusses, ridge, valley and hip blockings, purlins, frieze boards, fascias).
  • Radiant barrier installation.
  • Installation of metal roofing and ridge caps.
  • Exterior wall installation (T1-11 plywood siding).
  • All framing procedures follow current building codes and utilize structural strapping and brackets.  

Spring Semester (finishing)

  • Drywall blockings and fixture backings.
  • Rough framing inspection.
  • Exterior trim.
  • Fabrication and installation of wooden window frames.
  • Installation of drywall.
  • Fabrication and installation of door frames and doors.
  • Fabrication and installation of cabinets and counter tops.
  • Closet and storage shelving.
  • Baseboards, casings and misc. interior trim.
  • Installation of bathroom fixtures (towel bars, paper holders, medicine cabinets and mirrors).
  • Cleaning and addressing a punch list to ensure a well crafted home. 
  • Final inspection 

The students participate in the Model Home Project by engaging in a real-world architectural design and drafting opportunity, with hands-on civil engineering and land surveying learning experiences. With the growing urgency for a greener, more sustainable future, the students discover the magnitude of challenges faced by the construction field, an industry with the most widespread and extensive impact on the environment.  

The initial step is to develop student awareness by:

  • Viewing topic matter DVDs
  • Discussions, internet research assignments
  • Writing essay papers

The design goals are: 

  1. Focusing on conservation of energy 
  2. Discovering the availability of green building products & materials 
  3. Understanding the responsibilities of designing an efficient residence 
  4. Providing a safe and healthy residence for a local family of Hawaiian ancestry 

The Model Home Project begins with: 

  • Design fundamentals 
  • Documenting existing natural elements  & existing urban features 
  • Developing a sensitivity and appreciation for the environment

The preliminary design phase includes:

  • Visiting the project site 
  • Writing field observation reports 
  • Testing for wind speed and direction 
  • Examining precipitation and solar patterns, etc.  
  • Conducting a land survey verifying property boundaries and pins 
  • Establishing grade point elevations 
  • Generating a topographic map to be used in the design development phase.
  • Studying the County of Hawaii’s zoning and building codes 
  • Create their own architectural design proposal

The Model Home Committee, consisting of Applied Technical Education faculty and representatives from DHHL, reviews each proposal and selects the winning design.

The students in the first year of the AEC program learn:

  • Necessary skills to produce the set of working drawing documents 
  • How to use the technology of computer-aided drawing (CAD) software. 

These drawings become the blueprints for construction to be studied and used by the students in the Carpentry program to build the next annual Model Home Project.

Throughout this process the AEC students are:

  • Observing and following the construction progress at the jobsite
  • Familiarized with the sustainable design categories for certification by organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the National Green Building Standards (NGBS), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).    

Upon completion of construction, and in preparation for the annual Model Home Dedication Ceremony, Hawai`i Community College’s Hawaiian Studies program instructors and students share their mana’o, cultural values, and customs.   With traditional Hawaiian chanting and rituals, we celebrate the completion of the dwelling and respectfully bless the paramount transitional severance between the college’s effort, and the project is turned over to the new owners. 

This culminating event and learning opportunity is experienced by program major students and faculty of:

  • Carpentry 
  • Architectural, Engineering and CAD Technologies 
  • Electrical Installation and Maintenance Technologies
  • Agriculture 
  • Diesel Mechanics
  • Hawaiian Studies 

The Electrical Installation Maintenance and Technology (EIMT)  “Residential Certificate Program” allows enrolled students to participate in the planning, calculating, designing and installation of electrical service equipment, electrical grounding, double wall electrical wiring rough in and trim out, along with a complete fixed rooftop mounted photovoltaic system. This actual live project made possible by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is an excellent tool to engage students in critical thinking, problem solving, communicating, team work with peers and other participating trades affiliated with the Model Home project, along with continuous ongoing training for safety and proper work ethics during the duration of the project.

The EIMT students spend an academic year studying the National Electric Code (NEC), NFPA 70, along with repetitious training and instructions for the following: 

  • Safety 
  • Conductors (Various Types)
  • Services (Variety)
  • Switches (Various Types)
  • Grounding Systems and Principles
  • Photovoltaic Theory and Installation
  • Electrical Safety Practices and Theory
  • Drawing Electrical Symbols and Circuits
  • Reading and Interpreting Electrical and General Blueprints
  • Produce the actual E-1 electrical blueprint in accordance to the latest NEC, including a balanced panel directory and legend. 
  • Various wiring methods such as “Point to Point Wiring” and “Network Wiring” 
  • Box Fill Calculations 
  • Voltage Drop Calculations 
  • Conduit Bending  
  • Conduit Fill
  • Overcurrent Protection –fusing 
  • Responsible for the repair/maintenance of a back hoe and 20,000 GVW, flatbed truck utilized in site work and transportation of materials.
  • Tasks include site grading, material hauling and wood chipping. Wood chips provide the Agriculture Program with ground cover material or mulch.

Landscaping of the Hawai'i CC Model Home is an annual program project which provides the opportunity for students to integrate and apply the theories and principles of horticulture, soil science, plant identification, integrated pest management and landscape methods (design, installation and maintenance) developed over the previous year within a final, culminating project. As such, it also provides an opportunity to evaluate skills, learning outcomes and strengths of the students.   

Aspects of the Agriculture Curriculum Applicable to Landscaping of the Hawai'i CC Model Home:

  • Landscape design
    • Principles of design
    • Drawings and graphic techniques
    • Plant selection and native plants
    • Hardscaping, enrichment and use of features
  • Landscape contracting and maintenance
    • Calculations
    • Site preparation
    • Irrigation design and installation
    • Plant installation and maintenance
    • Safety and tool use
  • Horticulture, crop production and plant propagation
  • Soil science and plant nutrition
  • Integrated pest and disease management 

Moku ka Piko, or the cutting of the umbilical cord is a ceremony performed to initiate a new home. Using the cutting of the umbilical cord as a metaphor, ka ʻoki ʻana o ka piko o ka hale, or the cutting of the navel string of the house, is performed only after the house was completed and ready for its inhabitants. A symbolic piko made of plant materials are woven together, each plant possessing a specific reason for its use in the piko. Some of the plants used are: liko, representing new growth; koa, to represent strength: kupukupu, to represent growth; kukui, to provide enlightenment; and la’i, or ti leaf, to provide blessings and good health. Others are used as well depending upon what the new owner intends to associate with his/her new home. This piko takes time to create, sometimes weeks from gathering to weaving, and it is definitely a beautiful piece of work.

Using a koʻi, or adze, the person leading the ceremony chants and proceeds to cut through the piko. Once this is done the house is then blessed with paʻakai, or salt, to purify both the inside and outside of the house. Once the ceremony is complete it is a time for a community feast and all are invited to partake in the joyous occasion.

The Hawaiian Studies program has officiated over several house blessings over the years.

Win-Win-Win Proposition

  • Career and Technical Education students train on a "live" project.
  • The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands receives an affordable, quality built, custom, residential dwelling.
  • A qualified Native Hawaiian family is provided an opportunity to own a home.

Going Green

The Model Home has evolved to cope with the increasing awareness of energy efficient and "green" building methods. Such technologies included in recent homes are:

  • FSC certified dimensioned lumber and plywood.
  • Energy Star rated DuraCoat metal roofing.
  • Energy Star rated TechShield Radiant Barrier sheathing.
  • Green seal and Green Guard certified, low VOC paints.
  • Energy Star rated appliances, lamps and bulbs.
  • Solar water heater.
  • Photovoltaic electrical energy system.